Many young leaves are dotting the trees now, spray and foliage both showing. The woods are quite green; the rapidity with which the leaves unfold between sunrise and sunset, or during the night, is truly wonderful! ~ Susan Fenimore Cooper (Rural Hours)
We got our second covid bivalent booster on the 25th, recommended to those of us over 65. This will make me feel a little safer traveling to North Carolina and being around more people in the coming months. We had our first bivalent booster back in September. I wonder if we’ll be getting one every six months from now on…
On the second day of the kids’ visit we decided to go to the nature center to see mama goose sitting on her nest. But we wound up doing so much more! Kat still loves her maps and she noticed a hidden pond on the outdoor map sign and decided we should find it. Tim & I had never explored that part of the property before.
Dima climbs everything in sight, walls, trees, outcrops and probably other things I can’t even begin to imagine. The first time I documented this passion was at Coumeenoole Beach on our trip to visit the Dima, Larisa and Kat in Ireland in 2018. (Scroll down to picture #26)
I dug out my map pamphlet from last year’s visit and gave it to Kat. We started on the Forest Loop Trail, crossing the bridge over a brook leading to the stairs up to Council Rock, a glacial erratic sitting on top of an outcrop.
But first Dima took a detour to climb the first outcrop, while the rest of us caught up.
Then we climbed the stairs and approached the outcrop holding Council Rock. Before we knew it Dima was sitting on top of it! We were able to climb up the not-as-steep side of this outcrop. It was the only one we managed that day.
Somehow Kat managed to get up there with her Papa.
After resting a little we came down off the outcrop and followed the trail to an entrance to Ledge Trail. Dima and Kat got way out ahead while Tim, Larisa and Finn fell behind. I was enjoying my solitude in the middle of the procession when I glanced up to see Dima and Kat had climbed yet another outcrop! They tell me the view was great.
While up there, Dima spotted a wild turkey on the ridge below him, but above my vantage point. He was apparently displaying his feathers off and on. When the others caught up we finally spotted the turkey’s head peering over the ridge. Since the trail led in that direction we headed towards him. The turkey kept walking ahead of us but never ran or flew off.
There were so many twigs and short bushes in the way that it proved difficult getting the camera to focus. As we walked the trail along the ridge the wild turkey finally took a turn and went down into the swampy area at the bottom of the ravine. He joined a flock of about six other wild turkeys down there, and then they all started climbing up to the ridge on the other side.
At this point Finn decided to switch from riding in his mother’s arms and on her shoulders to riding on his father’s shoulders. Having a passenger did not deter Dima from climbing up on the next outcrop!
When the trail finally came down off the ridge we found a sign pointing to Hidden Pond! We were almost there!
Kat was pleased to have found her destination and I was happy we had so much fun and fresh air along the way. Finn was happy he was going to stop for ice cream on his way home and Dima reported that he had never seen a wild turkey in the woods before. Larisa wanted to take a selfie with her parents and we obliged. We then found a shorter connector trail back to the nature center but I’m so glad we took the long way around to find that little pond!
Skunk cabbages (above and below) were emerging everywhere near and in the water at the arboretum on our latest walk. Three difficult weeks had passed without a walk and it was such a relief to finally be outside again.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take. ~ John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space Between Us)
Our longings have taken us in a new direction. We have decided to move to North Carolina this summer to be near our grandchildren! It was not an easy decision to make as we’ve lived here most of our lives and love New England. I will also miss my sister and living by the sea.
Early in February we came down with our first head colds since before the pandemic began. (Our covid tests were negative.) Ten days of misery… And before he was fully recovered from his cold Tim was struck with a violent case of food poisoning. He’s okay now and we were grateful to finally take another walk!
In the arboretum there were plenty of signs of spring being right around the corner. January was the warmest one on record for Connecticut, with temperatures averaging ten degrees above average. I won’t be surprised to learn that February will be setting a similar record. Hey, if it’s not going to snow and be winter up north here we may as well move south, right?
While blowing my nose nonstop I kept busy online exploring the area that will become my new home, the Piedmont plateau region of North Carolina, the gentle rolling hills between the flat coastal plain and the Appalachian mountains. There are a lot of land conservancies, open spaces, state parks, botanical gardens, an arboretum and trails to keep us happy walking and exploring, at least when it isn’t too hot to go out. We suspect we will be more active in the winter down there. 🙂
There might even be more birds to see. But for this chilly and raw walk we were pleased to see a pair of hooded mergansers swimming and diving for food in the pond.
Thanks to a tag on this shrub, Alnus serrulata, I was able to identify these smooth alder catkins, flowers on a spike, another sign of spring.
The [smooth alder] flowers are monoecious, meaning that both sexes are found on a single plant. Male (Staminate) catkins are 1.6-2.4 in long; female (Pistillate) catkins are 1/2 in long. Reddish-green flowers open in March to April. … The ovate, dark brown, cone-like fruit is hard with winged scales. Seeds are produced in small cones and do not have wings. Fruit usually matures during fall and is quite persistent. ~ Wikipedia
I have to admit, thinking about the logistics involved to move is filling me with anxiety. The last time we moved was 29 years ago and that was just across town. Except for a couple of years living in Greece I’ve lived in Connecticut my whole life. When I moved to Greece with my parents I only had a trunk to fill and that was pretty simple. My parents took care of all the other planning. Now I’m coping with a chronic illness that is bound to complicate things. But we have family and friends helping us so I think we will make it somehow. And to be settled and living near our grandchildren while they are still very young will make it all worth it.
May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency. ~ John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space Between Us)
It’s hard to believe we haven’t been back to the nature center since June! For this nice walk we found lots of mosses to satisfy some craving for color. And we enjoyed seeing the latest patients in the outdoor rehab enclosures.
Mosses are prolific under the moist shaded canopy of evergreens, often creating a dense carpet of green. But in deciduous forests, autumn makes the forest floor virtually uninhabitable by mosses, smothering them under a dark wet blanket of falling leaves. Mosses find a refuge from the drifting leaves on logs and stumps which rise above the forest floor like buttes above the plain. Mosses succeed by inhabiting places that trees cannot, hard, impermeable substrates such as rocks and cliff faces and bark of trees. But with elegant adaptation, mosses don’t suffer from this restriction, rather, they are the undisputed masters of their chosen environment. ~ Robin Wall Kimmerer (Gathering Moss: A Natural & Cultural History of Mosses)
It’s breeding season at the salt marsh. All these pictures were of great egrets who were close enough to photograph. We also saw ospreys flying on and off their nests, Canada geese honking up a storm and quite a few ducks paddling around, but out of reach from my camera, even with the tripod which Tim lugged around for me. 💙
The pristinely white Great Egret gets even more dressed up for the breeding season. A patch of skin on its face turns neon green, and long plumes grow from its back. Called aigrettes, those plumes were the bane of egrets in the late nineteenth century, when such adornments were prized for ladies’ hats. ~ All About Birds website
After enjoying our birdwatching at the salt marsh we drove over to the nature center to check on mama goose. Monday night we had a nor’easter with lots of wind and rain so we checked on her Tuesday morning. She had turned around in the nest. When we checked again on Friday (pictures below) she was still in Tuesday’s position so we had to walk part way around the pond to get some pictures of her. Papa goose was there on Tuesday but nowhere to be found on Friday. We don’t know if we should be concerned or not.
Earlier this week the dishwasher died. It was buzzing and when I went to turn it off I got a shock. Our condo was built in the 1970s so it has aluminum wiring. We’ve always had electrical problems with the dishwasher connection and have gone through quite a few since we moved in here nearly twenty-nine years ago. The last one died in 2018. Even though the technicians installing them assure me that the goop they use to connect the aluminum wiring to the dishwasher wiring is safe and effective, I refuse to believe it any more. And so I have decided this time there will not be a new dishwasher.
I feel surprisingly zen about it. I thought of my grandmother who enjoyed doing her dishes by hand for her whole life. I remember her telling me it was her favorite household chore. As a child I disliked the task intensely and was utterly fascinated by her revelation. But now I’m finding the time spent doing dishes by hand meditative and mindful.
Thinking about all that is happening in Ukraine I feel grateful to simply have some dishes to do. Connecticut’s covid positivity rate was climbing all week, and reached 8% on Friday. Sigh… Looks like we need more practice living with uncertainty.
Four days after we visited the nature center with Kat I wanted to return to see if the Canada goose was still sitting on her eggs. She was, and had turned and was facing the other direction. This time we walked on some other trails through the woods and the meadow. There are still more loops to follow so we plan to return once a week to see the Canada goose, and if we’re lucky, some goslings one day.
It’s like the Light — A fashionless Delight — It’s like the Bee — A dateless — Melody —
It’s like the Woods — Private — Like the Breeze — Phraseless — yet it stirs The proudest Trees —
It’s like the morning — Best — when it’s done — And the Everlasting Clocks — Chime — Noon!
~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #302)
I imagine ‘it’ in Emily’s poem is Presence.
We also found six locations along the Meditation Walking Path, “each selected to provide a place for quiet reflection or meditation.” The path follows some of the other trails and the shortcuts between them. A little confusing but I think we sorted it out.
The light is so magical this time of year!
Sadly, Connecticut’s covid positivity rate is going up again. On Friday it was over 5%. I got my second booster shot that day and felt malaise all weekend, but it wasn’t too bad. Feeling overwhelming mourning and anticipatory grief for Ukraine…
Kat’s last day with us turned out to be the season’s opening day at the Dinosaur Place. We were there when the doors opened and were the first visitors of the year! It was a chilly, dreary day and we were sprinkled with occasional raindrops, but we had fun in spite of the dismal weather.
First we spent a lot of time watching Kat play in the T-Rex Tower at Monty’s Playground. While we were waiting for the attendant to dry off its surfaces we played a couple of rounds of hide-and-seek with our granddaughter. I can’t remember the last time I played hide-and-seek!
Then we started walking on one of the trails, noticing along the way just some of the 50 life-sized dinosaurs lurking in the woods. Kat followed the signs to Carnivore Cavern.
The first time through Grandpa was brave enough to go with her. They came out smiling but Kat was covering her ears and reported that it was VERY LOUD in there.
Then Kat announced that she was going to go through all by her self, and she did. 🙂
Then we found the A-MAZE-asaurus maze, complete with an observation deck, from where Grandpa and Grammy watched Kat try to make her way through. After a bit we offered suggestions. Good thing she knew her right from her left.
The exit turned out to be a tunnel slide, with a dinosaur mouth to pass through. Too bad we couldn’t scramble over there fast enough to see her at the top or landing at the bottom.
Then we followed the map to find the secret treasure, a large piece of quartz in the ground.
And some petrified wood…
And then Kat wanted to return to Carnivore Cavern to take me through. So I got a picture of inside the entrance.
And then it got very dark and then the dinosaurs in there roared. I managed to get a picture of one of the beasts!
After we that we followed another trail. I couldn’t resist getting a picture of a skunk cabbage down in the swamp.
It’s fun seeing dinosaurs outside and getting a walk in the woods in at the same time.
On the way out Kat and her grandpa got some ice cream at The Village Ice Cream Shoppe, the first customers of the season. 😉 A perfect way to end the day. I hope we will be bringing Finn here, too, someday soon. 💙
It was almost nine years ago that Tim and I came here with our grandnephews, Julius and Dominic. I’m glad to have pictures and memories from that fun day, too. Pictures here. Those little guys are teenagers now!
The preserve offers diverse terrain ranging from a heavily wooded glacial valley in the northern portion to a salt marsh on a tidal cove at the southern edge. Other distinguishing features include many glacial erratics, large trees, a white pine grove, wetlands crossed by bridges, and a cultivated field. ~ Avalonia Land Conservancy website
After several weeks of being plagued with gout/tendonitis/edema, Tim’s foot was finally healed enough to take a walk! Just in time to welcome some lovely warm spring weather. We chose a new-to-us preserve, Paffard Woods and walked for over an hour, much to my delight! It was a sunny day with temperatures around 50°F (10°C).
Even though these dark-eyed junco photos are marred by twigs I was excited to see them in the woods. They used to visit my birdfeeder when I had one but these are the first ones I’ve seen in the wild.
And then we saw a couple of eastern bluebirds flying to and from the hole way high up in this tree. Again, it was hard to get pictures with the twigs interfering with the focus. These were the best of my dozens of attempts! (Lots of shots with blurry wing action, too.)
Connecticut’s positivity rate has been hovering between 2-3%. There’s talk of a fourth shot being needed for those of us over 65. Still exercising a lot of caution in stores. Putin’s cruel onslaught on Ukraine continues. But it was good to forget reality for an hour and feel grateful for a brief dose of the healing power of nature.
Yesterday we took a side trail in Beebe Pond Park, which led us through a field of glacial erratics and tree shadows, then circled back to the pond.
Some of the boulders were bare and some covered with mosses and lichens. It makes one wonder…
I took so many pictures it was difficult to cull the batch down to size. The weather was perfect and breezy and we met two other pairs of hikers, a father and young son, and two women. All were wearing masks and we exchanged friendly greetings from our six-foot apart positions. The father and son were new to the park and asked us some questions about the trails. It still feels strange interacting with people in the greater world!
Delightful day; first walk in the woods, and what a pleasure it is to be in the forest once more! The earlier buds are swelling perceptibly — those of the scarlet maple and elm flowers on the hills, with the sallows and alders near the streams. We were struck more than usual with the mosses and lichens, and the coloring of the bark of the different trees; some of the chestnuts, and birches, and maples show twenty different shades, through grays and greens, from a dull white to blackish brown. These can scarcely vary much with the seasons, but they attract the eye more just now from the fact that in winter we are seldom in the woods; and at this moment, before the leaves are out, there is more light falling on the limbs and trunks than in summer. The ground mosses are not yet entirely revived; some of the prettiest varieties feel the frost sensibly, and have not yet regained all their coloring. ~ Susan Fenimore Cooper (Rural Hours)
Six months ago when we visited the pond the severe drought had lowered the water level drastically. You can see a picture on this post: by courtesy of the light But the pond is full to overflowing now, and water is running down the stream.
There was a strong breeze this day, making little waves on the pond.
And of course, I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the leaves left over from autumn.
On Friday it will have been two weeks from my second shot and I will join the ranks of the fully vaccinated. We made appointments to get haircuts and plan to celebrate and have our first restaurant meal in 15 months. Outside. To me, being vaccinated feels like having a parachute. Even with a parachute I don’t want to jump out of an airplane and I think going inside to get a haircut will feel almost as scary as skydiving.